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I Spy (2002)
Rated PG13

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, and Famke Janssen

Rating:
**1/2
out of
*****

Although this film shares the name of the popular 1960s show, 2002's I Spy bares little resemblance to to the Bill Cosby and Robert Culp TV series. The characters' names may be the same but the plot is a lot less cerebral and the action is pretty bland.

Agent Alex Scott (Owen Wilson) is assigned to find a new stealth fighter called Switchblade. The plane, which was stolen from the U.S., is in the hands of international arms dealer Arnold Gundars (Malcolm McDowell), who is attempting to sell it to the highest bidder in Budapest, Hungary. Taking championship boxer Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) with him as an undercover decoy, Alex is supposed to find and recover the aircraft. Kelly Robinson is supposed to be Kelly Robinson, which means he's to be loud, obnoxious and full of himself.

The plot, admittedly, is second banana to the comedic antics of Murphy and Wilson. Well, mostly Murphy, who gives one of his better performances as the over-the-top, always-referring-to-himself-in-the-third-person Robinson. Wilson is no slouch either, but he's much more subdued in his role as Alex Scott. The comedy in this action comedy is in no need of repair.

The problem is the action, which isn't very abundant or entertaining. For a spy movie to be engaging -- even one with a comedic focus -- there should be a mission that's somewhat entertaining or even somewhat interesting. Here, the stolen "invisible" plane doesn't really seem to matter much and the attempt to create a backdrop of espionage fails miserably. Famke Janssen is wasted in a thankless role as a possible double agent. Gary Cole, for some reason, plays a Latino-like super-spy named Carlos, who provides a few inspired comedy moments, but little else.

I Spy is not terrible but it's only half as good as it should have been.

Trivia: The characters from the TV series are reversed in this film version. In the original TV series, Kelly Robinson (not Alexander Scott) was the white guy and the athlete, while Alexander Scott was the black guy and the non-athlete. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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